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MSU Goes Through Upbeat First Spring Practice

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The Bulldogs went through their first spring practice of 2014 on Tuesday.
Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Nearly three months removed from a Liberty Bowl victory, head coach Dan Mullen and a veteran Mississippi State football team anxiously returned to the field for the first of 15 spring workouts on Tuesday at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.

Sunny skies and cool temperatures greeted the Bulldogs, who worked out in helmets and shorts. The first installation practice will be followed by another one at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday before the first workout in pads at 3:15 p.m. Friday. Both practices are open to the public at the Seal Complex.

“I like the excitement and the energy our guys have,” said Mullen, who begins his sixth season with the program. “They’re excited to be out there and play some football. We threw a lot out there to guys on both sides of the ball. The older guys picked up where we left off and the younger guys are trying to figure out what is going on because it all happens kind of fast for them. But, overall it has been pretty good.”

Tuesday represented the first MSU practice for new quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, who reunites with Mullen after he recruited him to play at Utah. Johnson, the winningest quarterback in Utah history and former Utes offensive coordinator, inherits a talented quarterback class led by junior Dak Prescott. Prescott accounted for 23 touchdowns as a sophomore.

“Brian does a good job,” said Mullen. “He understands the game and is a very smart coach. He’s played the position and has played in big games and has made things happen. He’s a guy that understands how to utilize your talents to become successful. He was always a very fundamentally sound guy and always had to use his fundamentals to have a lot of success.”

Replacing departed seniors Gabe Jackson and LaDarius Perkins will be keys this spring and there is plenty of depth to fill the void. Getting first shot at running back is Josh Robinson, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound junior who rushed for 459 yards as a sophomore and came on strong late in the year.

“He has a lot of energy in him,” said Mullen of Robinson. “It’s good to have those guys with the excitement he plays with. He goes from the No. 2 to the No. 1. Hopefully, we will get to a point where we have a one-two-three (combination) or a one-two-three-four like we’ve had in the past.”

Spring practice culminates with the Maroon-White Spring Game as part of Super Bulldog Weekend on Saturday, April 12. Kickoff is at noon in Davis Wade Stadium and admission is free. For more information, visit www.HailState.com/SBW.

Head Coach Dan Mullen Transcript
Spring Practice No. 1
March 18, 2014


On the today’s first spring practice…

“I like the excitement and the energy our guys have. They’re excited to be out there and play some football. We threw a lot out there to guys on both sides of the ball. The older guys picked up where we left off and the younger guys are trying to figure out what is going on because it all happens kind of fast for them. But, overall it has been pretty good. It’s hard to really tell without any pads, because I don’t think you get a lot of realistic looks. But, energy, effort and the excitement was all really good.”

On the team’s health entering today…

“It’s good. Throughout spring you’re always going to have guys nicked up and all that stuff. There are some guys that we will protect throughout scrimmages. We protect some guys, ask others to do certain things and rest others in certain situations.”


On how the team feels getting back out there again…

“It’s great for me. I love being out there on the field. That’s what we love to do and these guys on the team love to play football. Not that they don’t like winter conditioning and lifting weights and running sprints and all that stuff, but they really love to play the game. The opportunity to get back out there and go play some football is fun.”

On if having more veterans entering this spring change the dynamic of what the coaching staff does…

“No, we’re installing pretty quickly. I guess what you go home and feel better about is that guys know what’s going on out there on the field and there’s not that much confusion. You will see the significant drop from when the 1’s go, the 2’s go and then the 3’s go. When you get out here at practice and you make wholesale changes to the 3’s, those are really developmental guys, they’re still learning what is going on. Some are maybe looking for an opportunity to get some reps this year or some that are just looking to learn the system and are maybe further away. Practice sometimes brings it up and down. You look at the 1’s go and say that’s pretty good football being played. The 2’s go and that’s pretty good football as well. But, when you get to the 3’s, those guys are still picking it up, but it’s good to have them. The 1’s and 2’s, though, I felt pretty good about.”

On Brian Johnson working with the quarterbacks…

“He’s going to coach them up. There are some things that you always want to get working on with guys. I think they’ll come along. I think Nick (Fitzgerald) has been great. That’s the benefit of being here and to be able to go through spring ball. With him being here before the bowl game, he’s at least been at a practice before. He was kind of holding on before the bowl game, but now it’s getting installed, so he’s learning it for the first time and he’ll pick it up pretty quickly.”

On having Dak Prescott back at practice after missing some last year…

“It was good for him. I thought he got through some reads fairly well today for day one. We threw a couple of new things in and obviously with the reps he will get those down faster.”

On De’Runnya Wilson’s upbeat demeanor during today’s practice…

“For one, he got to play and made some big plays during last season, so he comes back with some confidence as a guy that was almost starting by the end of the year or at least getting starter reps. When you come back as a returning starter, there’s a lot more confidence in you. I still think he’s a young player and there’s some things that he still has to learn, but I think you can see that he’s confident and understands the system. I mean, you call plays and he understands what is going on out there on the field.”

On the biggest goal as a team this spring…

“There’s a bunch. One is that I want to see guys play with relentless effort every single snap; I want to see us reach our potential every single snap. Which means that guys have to play to their level, and even older guys too. Sometimes they get in a rut and go through the motions, but we have to push them to be the best that they can possibly be every day.”

 
On Christian Holmes staying for his senior season…

“Christian is a good program guy, he has a role on the team and he knows his role. He might not be the starting linebacker, but he knows that he is a special teams player. He plays on a lot of our special teams. He was top 40 in reps on the team last year, now most of them are special teams, but when you look at total number of snaps played he played a lot of snaps last year. When guys look back sometimes and they look at things and realize ‘you know what I do have significant role, I’m playing a lot of plays.’ Everybody wants to be a starting All-American, but when you have a great team everyone understands their role and does their job to the best of their ability. That’s when you have a great opportunity to have a great team.”

On Rufus Warren gaining weight to become an offensive lineman…

“He was always fighting to keep his weight down, hopefully we will have some depth at tight end now. We are young on the offensive line and you look at the opportunities for him there. Instead of battling to keep his weight down, he didn’t have to work to put on the pounds. He is 295 today and that didn’t take a whole lot of work, he just got to go and eat what he felt like eating for dinner one night. Making that move with his natural size will give him an opportunity for some playing time at that right tackle spot.”

 On having Josh Robinson

“It’s huge. The confidence of being an every-down guy and knowing how to do all of the little things the right way, when it comes to pass protection, routes, and so on. We know he can run the ball pretty well, but doing all of the other little things are really important.”

On Josh Robinson’s energy…

“He has a lot of energy in him, he likes to talk. It’s good to have those guys, with the excitement he plays with. He goes from the No. 2 to the No. 1, but now we have to find out who the two is going to be and who the guys are that you can trust to get in there. Hopefully we will get to a point where we have a one-two-three or a one-two-three-four like we’ve had in the past.”

On Ferlando Bohanna’s condition…

“We are going to protect him. We went out in pads today, and we will see how he adjusts and how he feels. He is a guy that has had a couple of concussions and didn’t get over it the right way. He missed all of last season, but hopefully it is something that he can come back from and actually play for his senior year.”

On working with Brian Johnson after recruiting him as a player…

“It’s fun. I guess it makes me feel old. He was a little guy that I recruited a couple years ago and now he’s out here coaching with us. I think that Brian does a good job. He understands the game and is a very smart coach. He’s played the position and has played in big games and has made things happen. He’s a guy that understands how to utilize your talents to become successful. He was always a very fundamentally sound guy and always had to use his fundamentals to have a lot of success. It’s great, as a coach, for him to pass that on.”
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